Chronicles of Hollywood

“Everything you know is about to change forever…” is one of the taglines of the mammoth film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I have seldom come across a more appropriate tagline; everything the reader knows about Narnia is certainly changed in this movie.  Whether it causes lasting damage or not, only time will tell.  I, for one, sincerely hope it doesn’t.

Under normal circumstances, I would urge the viewer to refer to the book the movie is supposedly based upon to discover the story, but in this case, I would do better to advise the readers to forget about the book altogether.  It is the kindest advice I could give them.  ,The movie tells the rather abridged tale of Prince Caspian and his fight for the throne of Narnia, a throne that is rightfully his – but stolen from him by his villainous uncle, Miraz.  He calls upon Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, the kings and queens of yore, from our world into a Narnia that is separated from the one they ruled by for over a thousand years.  Their struggle against Miraz, both for the throne and for the freedom of the Old Narnians whom Miraz is anxious to exterminate, forms the basis of the film.

This is about as far as the movie sticks to the book.  Admittedly, I have no love for artistic license as far as adaptations of my favourite novels are concerned, but I do realize that some changes are necessary in order to portray the story on the big screen.  However, the rigmarole we are subjected to in the theatre bears minimal resemblance to CS Lewis’s masterpiece.  Several parts of the narrative have either been changed beyond recognition or discarded altogether to make way for new events that never took place (except in the scriptwriters’ heads). Did the makers of the film actually read the book or did they just hear the basic storyline one day and decide to generously add elements of their own imagination to it. It appears that they cashed in on the Narnia name, for the sake of mere publicity? To be sure, it is a moot point.  But I recollect we were striving to forget the book.  My mistake.

Just as Tolkien spoke of “one ring to rule them all”, Hollywood seems to have one policy that rules the entire fantasy genre.  If you have seen the Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter movies, chances are that you will experience a strong sense of déjà vu right through this one, to the point where it seems generic and even formulaic, despite the fact that its source material is completely original and, I might add, very different from that of the aforementioned films. Oh dear, there I go again – harping on about the book!  I crave your pardon.  Even so, Prince Caspian is hardly a sweet children’s adventure.  War scenes are played out on an epic, almost Troy-esque scale and are too time consuming  for comfort or even interest.  Miraz is transformed into a ruthless, cold-blooded murderer –  certainly no baddie from a kids’ fairytale.  All-in-all, it is not exactly a fun, light-hearted romp.

As for the performances, they aren’t particularly outstanding either.  The casting, for one, is quite poor.  If I go any further, I stand in some danger of mentioning the forbidden b-word, so let me be mum on that. The prince himself fails to convince us that he is worthy of the crown he seeks, behaving much like a lost, foolish boy. The only likeable (human) characters are Edmund and Lucy, although I must point out that in the b**k the latter has bright golden hair, while here it is much darker.  But I fear that in a disaster of such gigantic proportions, to quarrel with such a small oversight would be nitpicking.  The locations, however, are superbly beautiful and deserve special mention.  The film has been shot in – wonder of wonders – New Zealand and the landscapes are quite breathtaking.

Alas, if only stunning settings were all that was needed to make a good film!  Tragic as it is, they fail to make up for the countless flaws and errors here.  The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a travesty of the – I’m going to say it now – book it is “based on” and an insult to the genius behind it.  If you are unconcerned with that, by all means watch it and enjoy it.  But for true fans of the Narnia series, the movie fails spectacularly as an adaptation; the magical tale is lost in the telling and in its place is a typical Hollywood summer blockbuster.

Poor Mr. Lewis must be turning in his grave

Aishwarya Jha

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